Between Here and April

This first novel by the author of the bestselling memoir Shutterbabe flirts with fiction and its opposite in such a way that one may be compelled, upon completion, to find out what is "true." Though the nature of reality is open to interpretation, we have the internet, and in this case, it has partial answers. Elizabeth Burns, the protagonist, and Deborah Copaken Kogan, her creator, share some biographical details: Both returned from war zones to take up marriage and motherhood in Manhattan (Kogan's career as a photojournalist was the subject of her first book); both worked in television; and, most strikingly, both of them had a best friend in first grade who was murdered by her suicidal mother (so claims Kogan on her web site). This last fact comes back to the adult Elizabeth during a performance of Medea and seems quite rightly to be the spectacular basis for a story. She talks her producer into letting her dig up whatever facts she can find and put them together into a documentary. Adele, the mother of Elizabeth's best friend April, gassed herself and two daughters to death in the family car one night in 1972. Thirty years later, Elizabeth tracks down Adele's shell-shocked former husband, her women's studies professor sister, and, somewhat improbably, the transcripts of conversations between Adele and her therapist, which naturally make the reader privy to the long-dead woman's deepest thoughts in her own voice. Elizabeth, meanwhile, becomes alarmed at the emotional parallels between her own ambivalence about marriage and motherhood and those of a suicidal murderess. Though parts of her novel resemble many recent titles on the difficulties of balancing career and motherhood for affluent urban women, Kogan's material -- including rape, war, suicide, and homicide -- certainly ratchets up the consequences and thus the conversation beyond the usual playground chatter.

July 23: Jessica Mitford died on this day in 1996.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).

Watching Them Be

What makes a film actor into a larger-than-life movie star? James Harvey's passionate, freewheeling essays explain why there are some faces (from Greta Garbo's to Samuel L. Jackson's) from which we cannot look away.

Landline

What if you called up the spouse on the verge of leaving you -- and instead found yourself magically talking to his younger self, the one you first fell for?  Rainbow Rowell, author of the YA smash Eleanor & Park, delivers a sly, enchanting take on 21st-century love.